The Big Ten torch will be carried by the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend in New Orleans. Overcoming major foul trouble in the first half, the Buckeyes outlasted Syracuse 77-70 to win the East Region and advance to their first Final Four since 2007.
After dropping three of six games in February, Ohio State’s offense has flourished since, scoring at least 72 points in eight of nine games.
What would have been if Kendall Marshall never suffered a season-ending wrist injury? That is the question on every North Carolina fan’s mind as the Tar Heels’ lack of point guard depth caught up to them Sunday against Kansas.
The Jayhawks haven’t had a smooth ride to the Final Four, as they had to overcome second half deficits to double-digit seeds Purdue and North Carolina State.
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The biggest question surrounding Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas heading into college was what position he would play at the next level. Everyone knew he could score the ball (he is the third all-time leading scorer in IHSAA history), but no one was sure where he would fit in the Buckeyes lineup. He has taken off in March scoring a Tournament-high 89 points and shooting 36-of-68 (53 percent) from the floor. Thomas is also averaging just more than nine rebounds a game for the Tournament while sitting a total of three minutes in the Buckeyes’ past three games.
Just like on the other side of the bracket, we have a rematch on our hands with Ohio State and Kansas. This one will look very different than the teams’ first meeting as Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger did not play Dec. 10. Kansas beat the Sullinger-less Buckeyes 78-67 in Lawrence, Kan. With Sullinger back in the lineup, two of the premier post players in the country will be matched up in this one.
Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson has emerged in his first season as a starter and is a consensus top-five NBA Draft pick if he forgoes his final season. In the teams’ first meeting, Robinson had 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but now he will have to deal with a team, and a certain player, that is headed to the “Big Easy” for one reason.
“We’re not going down to New Orleans for a vacation,” Sullinger said. “It’s a business trip.”
Ohio State, Kansas back in Final Four